the grass is greener on the internet

Personal branding:: the next big thing?
September 1, 2008, 6:07 pm
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Maybe it’s just because I’ve been thinking about jobs lately, but I think the next big trend might be personal branding.

At the ‘how to get a job in marketing’ talk at Marketing Week, it was mentioned that going to recruitment consultants is the obvious way to go but not necessarily the best. Like a company listing in the Yellow Pages. What’s the value proposition? What are the values that define you as a brand?

A lot of things are now being sold on pure cult of personality, mostly celebs. Paris. Beckham. Posh. You all know who I’m talking about, and they turnover product purely through personality. Why? They’ve established a personal brand with massive brand equity

Personal branding is more effective for social marketing, too. It’s easier to stand for something, to be trusted, and to interact with your target market, if you’re an individual with a recognisable personality. Just ask Perez. Or Xiaxue. Of course, the downside is that they can’t interact with everyone, which could limit conversations, but it puts more value in those conversations.

Hmm. Sometimes I wonder if Interbrand will measure personal brand equity. Or even blog brand equity…


How not to advertise on facebook
September 1, 2008, 12:53 am
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Sometimes I feel like people promoting on facebook really aren’t looking at their OWN usage of facebook.

Facebook is great for marketing research, yes. There’s this huge mine of personal data that marketers can access (with user permission of course). There’s a huge variety of content that you can produce on the site, and it’s completely FREE. But nobody seems to have gotten to grips with how to use it for promotions and it’s sparking a huge debate online.

[If you want to skip the rant, my recommendations are at the bottom. :)]

This really annoys me, because I did a brief on this for a client last year, and I could have told you what so many people are apparently just discovering. And it’s all from observing how I use facebook, and how my friends use it (that mini-feed thing is just so handy).

There’s the obvious ‘traditional’ methods – ads, fan pages. When was the last time you really looked at a facebook ad? Did you click on it? Didn’t think so. When was the last time you visited the page of something you’re a fan of? Didn’t think so either.

Pretty much the only thing fan pages do is create or increase name awareness from being displayed on profiles. It had better be an interesting name (to make them click on the page) or be really self-evident (explanatory, or famous). There was a pretty thorough analysis of this on No Man’s blog.

Same goes for groups – my client kept going on about how many people joined their promotional group. It doesn’t mean they give a shit. They just clicked a link, and you got your name on their profile. It now has to compete with other groups on their profiles, like “Jane just lost her phone and needs all of your numbers now!” and “I Have Worked In Retail, And Thus Have Lost All Faith In Humanity”. Great placement. The only redeeming factor for promoting using groups is that you can send messages to the entire group, or create an event.

IMHO:: The biggest sins an advertiser can commit on facebook (or any other social media, actually)

  1. be intrusive without adding value (ie. SPAM)
  2. allow users to be passive receivers of information (ie. ads, fan pages)
  3. assume that users will keep interacting with you if you stop interacting with them (ie. non-updated information pages)

So you’re probably wondering, if I’m going to criticise everyone else, what’s my answer?

  • Facebook is about interacting with your friends, and procrastinating. You need to give them a way to interact with your brand whilst doing one of those two.
  • The movie Wall-E used the Gifts application to allow users to give each other a Wall-E unit. In fact, someone gave one to me. They had no idea what it was, but the curiosity from that will lead to recognition when they see the ads for the movie’s release. (I don’t know how much Pixar paid for this.)
  • Scrabble is pretty boring and dead…or that’s what I thought until I discovered Scrabulous. It’s a pity they sued and got the application removed, because it stimulated renewed interest in the brand. Sure, you can’t make money out of it and it was competing with their online version, but surely instead of destroying all of that brand equity you can find a way to tap into it? (Scrabulous, RIP – 5 points.)
  • Some advertisers, like nightclubs, have found it more effective to create an actual user profile (even if you’re not meant to). 1) Your photos and events show up on mini-feeds. 2) You can create more of a personality for your brand that has credibility. 3) You can interact; poke, SuperPoke, send messages, post on walls…

Why don’t advertisers get creative? Make mystery gifts or bumper stickers. Create an application that is fun and stimulates interaction with your brand. The normal rules don’t apply; isn’t that what you’ve been waiting for?

  • Facebook is content-rich and you need to earn the attention you get by being credible and interesting.
  • It all depends on your product and associated brand experience, but there’s a LOT of untapped potential there if you just stop thinking about consumers and start thinking about prosumers.

That’s my rant for the day.

[I’m looking at doing a survey based on my friends’ profile pages; most common type of content to be found on a profile, and where information-transfer interactions occur. It might help advertisers determine what type of content is most effective for them to create. If you’re interested in being involved, comment or email me (katherine dot liew at gmail dot com).]

Prosumers and churnalism

I have two new words for the day:: prosumer and churnalism.

The first came from the AMI Marketing Week seminar I was at today, given by John Gamvros of OMD Fuse on the role of brands in consumer’s lives. He focussed mostly on leveraging new technologies and what implications they would have on brand-building. With more opportunities for consumers to create their own content and interact with brands, we’re morphing into a society of prosumers (producers and consumers). Key lesson:: be prepared to let go of some control, and if you’ve done your homework right you’ll have much better brand engagement.

He also showed us the video below, which paints a scary picture for the future and brought out the term ‘prosumer’ about a year ago.

I really hadn’t been thinking of social marketing interactions like that, so ‘prosumer’ may be cropping up in my posts from now on.

The second term was aired quite vehemently on the 7.30 Report tonight (and I don’t think any other channel would have dared to air the story). Ah, churnalism just describes itself so accurately. And sadly, it’s true that a lot of news stories feel like they’ve come straight from a PR department or someone elses news feed. Supposedly the phenomena comes from– well, bluntly, overworking of journalists. It’s entirely possible that this would lead to journos not having enough time and lowering their standards, bringing the standard down in general. However, I think it’s also a matter of society in general not having the time or bothering to check more than one news source, and not bringing them into line.

I’m definitely no expert in this area, so I’ll probably read up it’s origin in ‘Flat Earth News’ by Nick Davies before I start using it prolifically, after all a Guardian veteran should have a fair idea. Right?

B&T, or anybody who happens to be listening right now:: I used to be an avid follower of B&T’s news service, bringing me the latest of Australia’s advertising news…but no more!

Why? Their RSS feed isn’t working.

…and it hasn’t been for weeks now. Please B&T, fix your RSS feed, or update the link which is on your homepage. I feel like you’re not communicating with me and I don’t want it to get in the way of our relationship. 😉

It will be my experiment in social media, which just so happens to be useful. (As all effective social media should be!) Indulge me a little and post to your own blogs. Let’s see how long this takes, or if it happens at all!

Cities and diamonds
August 4, 2008, 10:23 am
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I was surprised to learn that the most ‘green’ champagne is apparently Veuve Clicquot. Transported by sea and pressurised to weigh less (hmm, are we getting less?) it’s just a little more friendly to the earth than other bubbly. I am told that its box also folds out to form its own ice bucket – I’m not sure if that really reduces waste but it is certainly a cool idea.

This article by Paul Graham really confirms for me why I want to move.

Back on the topic of blogs as an advertising tool, National Australia Bank’s advertisements for a new SMS banking service in the commenting space of several Australian blogs caused a huge fuss in the blogging community.

Banks never have a good time of it; nobody really LIKES you, but they do need you. Still, it seems like every bank wants to be your friend, and sometimes just try too hard. ANZ’s latest tvc which tried to show that they consider everyone’s feedback as well as depicting what a bank would look like if they offered the services of a beautician was entertaining, but didn’t give them much credibility. The Commonwealth Bank also went for entertainment, with a ‘behind the scenes’ look at them turning down an overdone, showy ad proposed by an agency because they want to keep it simple. While – perhaps in the name of tact – the agency was pinned as being American, it brings up the question as to why an Australian bank would employ an American agency in the first place. Apart from the fact that after all of the showbiz, the actual message of the ad is surprisingly hard to catch.

But NAB’s mistake is a bit different, and runs in line with a lot of other companies. Advertisers are learning the hard way that social networking, blogging included, has its own laws. Facebook has unwritten laws unto itself (but more on that another time). The focus of a blog is the writer and what they want to show the world; a violation of that is the online version of going to a birthday party and not speaking to the host. To have a generic, unrelated comment on a serious post is like an invasion of a private conversation, and is usually left to the likes of Viagra-hawking spammers. It reflects poorly on the brand and ruffles feathers. besides, blogs are not the most intuitive place to be promoting a mobile service…

No doubt they’ve learnt that lesson now.

Working on a few interesting projects at the moment. One is a research project looking at solving the confusion surrounding nutrition, the output of which is scaring me a little. Definitely going to look into Michael Pollon’s new book, In Defense of Food. (‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’)

Also just finished a competition submission proposed by a jewellery retailer, asking how, as a generic product, diamonds should be branded. It’s an interesting one because as a promotional exercise for their company it is surely not a good idea to intrinsically link the idea that your products are generic with your brand, particularly in a context where the participants are considering the scenario at length. I’m no diamond expert, but I would still debate that diamonds are generic – apart from the four c’s there’s still design aspects and origin to consider.

And more for my own reference: a video of David Ogilvy here just because he’s cool.

Gruen Transfer is over for the year! Can’t wait to have the next season. Also will be hanging out for a DVD of The Hollowmen. Definitely the best Australian tv I’ve seen in a while.

Ping! The new communications idea
August 1, 2008, 1:18 am
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Well here’s a random thought::

The two things claimed to be the future of B2C communications are online advertising and PR. Now, combining the two is not a new phenomenon by any means. Advertorials in blogs and display ads tailored to your browsing habits are almost standard for the savvy webmonkey. But I’m waiting for something more.

As a seasoned blogger (hey, I was there when xanga was big the FIRST time) I’ve noticed that – depending on your blogging host and in the absence of promotion – the actual time of posting can play a huge part in traffic.

Let’s say you have a social blog which is of moderate interest to secondary school students in South East Asia. What can make your page come up on a search in priority to other social blogs of moderate interest to students in South East Asia?


We want new, new, new, newer. The biggest moment for the Next Big Thing is actually often the moment they’re lauded as, well, the Next Big Thing. So blog searches will usually sort results first by relevance but then by date, most recent first. Oh, and good luck if your readers use RSS feeds – as a habit of the time-poor, are they really going to sort through every headline until they see yours?

What I’d be interested to see – any maybe it’s already been done – is research on who surfs what, when. Say you want to create the premier blog providing financial analysis to prominent businesspeople around the world. What time zone are they in? When do they have the opportunity to access the internet for a reasonable amount of time? And when are they utilising that time to look at your content as opposed to work, email or porn?

Based on that, when should you post to receive maximum coverage for minimum effort?

Definitely could do some interesting segmentation on this… if privacy laws allowed it…